Synergy CEO: Shipping Needs to Fully Embrace Digitalization to Prosper

The shipping industry should cast off its conservatism and commit to harnessing the operational, financial and environmental benefits new technologies can yield, Captain Rajesh Unni, CEO and Founder of Singapore-based shipmanager Synergy Group, said.

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“Shipping has been conservative for far too long. It is time for us to welcome change and emerge from the shadows. Technology unlocks potential, but the digital world and digital shipping must be embraced,” Unni pointed out.

Unni believes most shipping companies are risk averse and, as a result, are failing to benefit from the commercial and operational gains now possible through the integration of new technologies, both on ships and ashore.

“Technology is already redefining our industry. IoT, machine learning and cloud-based Big Data science are revolutionising shipping and shipmanagement processes. They can yield efficiency and transparency for owners, ship suppliers and operators,” he explained.

Unni also acts as a CEO of Alpha Ori Technologies (AOT), established in 2017 to help the maritime sector address many of these challenges. AOT has introduced SMARTShip, an IoT platform that enables the onboard operation of multiple systems with varying degrees of autonomy.

Data is collected from all parts of the ship to create a platform which connects all the disparate systems to allow the technology to continually monitor data and help crew and managers make rules-based decisions.

Image Courtesy: Synergy Group

“We view our mission as to digitally connect the entire ecosystem within the ship. We can plug this ship into a digital cloud that connects to many other ships, and create the system, tools and business processes that are needed to activate remote monitoring and control of these digitally connected ships while using collected data as a strategic weapon to drive economic value.” 

Trammo Dietlin, a Singapore-registered vessel in the Global United Gas Carriers fleet, recently became the first ship in the world to be awarded Lloyd’s Register’s cyber autonomous level safe (AL-SAFE) notation which certifies the safety of onboard autonomous systems.

The vessel was constructed by Hanjin Heavy Industries in collaboration with AOT, which supplied its SMARTShip autonomous control system.

AOT also recently established an AOT ‘Center of Innovation’ in Singapore which operates a Network Operating Centre to remotely monitor and control digitally-enabled ships and is now working on a range of additional products which will be rolled out as the year progresses.

Captain Unni believes the challenge facing AOT and the shipping sector is one of innovation implementation. However, innovation in both products and processes are not mutually exclusive – one of them is needed to enable the other.

Reflecting on Amazon and how they changed the way the retail industry operates, Unni concluded:

“I see the shipping industry moving in a similar way whereby we innovate products and services for digitalisation while keeping the return on investment in mind so we have a sustainable business model. As the products and services mature it will enable new ways of managing and operating ships.”